by OLLS Staff
The 2013 legislative interim has kept several interim committees busy considering myriad issues ranging from wildfires to the legal representation of juveniles to the treatment of mentally ill offenders to transportation to water to early childhood education. Colorado LegiSource will be summarizing the activities and bills of each committee that is recommending bills. The Legislative Council will meet November 14, 2013, to approve the interim committee bills that will be introduced during the 2014 legislative session.
This week’s article discusses four of the eight committees that are recommending bills. In two weeks, Colorado LegiSource will summarize the bill output of the other four committees.
During the 2013 legislative session, the General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution 13-1019, which created the Juvenile Defense Attorney Interim Committee. The committee was required to meet during the 2013 interim to study the role of legal defense counsel in the juvenile justice system.
On Monday, October 28, the committee met for the last time and completed its business by advancing two bills and one resolution. The Legislative Council will consider this proposed legislation on Thursday, November 14. With the approval of the Legislative Council, the bills and the resolution will be introduced during the 2014 legislative session. Here’s a brief summary of what the bills do.
Bill #1: Concerning the provision of defense counsel to juvenile offenders.
This is the most substantive bill that the interim committee produced. It makes several changes to provisions of the Colorado Juvenile Justice System (i.e., article 2 of title 19, C.R.S.) concerning the representation of children in juvenile proceedings.
First, the bill states that a juvenile who is detained must be represented at the detention hearing by counsel. If the juvenile has not retained his or her own counsel, the Office of the State Public Defender (OSPD) or, in the case of a conflict, by the Office of Alternate Defense Counsel (OADC) must represent the juvenile. This representation continues unless:
- The juvenile retains his or her own counsel; or
- The juvenile makes a permissible and knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of his or her right to counsel.
At a juvenile’s first appearance before the court, the court must advise the juvenile of his or her rights, including the right to counsel. The court must appoint OSPD or, in the case of a conflict, OADC for the juvenile unless the juvenile has retained his or her own counsel or the juvenile has made a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of the right to counsel.
Second, the bill creates procedural safeguards to ensure that courts may accept only knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waivers of counsel by juveniles. Specifically, a court may accept a waiver of counsel by a juvenile only after finding that the juvenile:
- Is sufficiently mature to make a voluntary, knowing, and intelligent waiver of the right to counsel;
- Has consulted with counsel and understands the potential sentence and possible consequences he or she faces in the event of an adjudication or conviction;
- Has not been coerced into making the waiver; and
- Understands that the court will provide counsel if the juvenile’s parent, guardian, or legal custodian is unable or unwilling to obtain counsel for the juvenile.
Additionally, a court may not accept a juvenile’s waiver of counsel in any proceeding relating to a case in which the juvenile is charged with:
- A sexual offense;
- A crime of violence;
- An offense for which the juvenile will receive a mandatory sentence upon his or her conviction of the offense; or
- An offense for which the juvenile is being charged as a repeat juvenile offender, an aggravated juvenile offender, or a mandatory sentence offender.
A court also may not accept a juvenile’s waiver if the prosecuting attorney is seeking direct file proceedings or a transfer proceeding or if the juvenile is in the custody of the state department of human services or a county department of social services.
Third, the bill states that, in ruling on an application for court-appointed counsel, the court will decide a juvenile’s indigence by considering only the juvenile’s assets and income.
The appointment of counsel for a juvenile offender continues until the court’s jurisdiction is terminated; the juvenile or the juvenile’s parent, guardian, or legal custodian retains counsel for the juvenile; or the juvenile makes a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of the right to counsel.
Bill #2: Concerning the provision of social workers to juveniles.
This is a very brief, two-page bill with one substantive provision. The bill authorizes OSPD to hire social workers to assist in defending juvenile defendants. Any report that such a social worker prepares and that the juvenile’s attorney submits to the court is considered as evidence in the juvenile’s case.
Resolution #1: Concerning requesting the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court to take certain actions concerning adjudication of juvenile delinquency petitions.
This resolution first states that the interim committee identified certain problems in the juvenile justice system that require the judicial branch to take certain actions. Specifically, the General Assembly requests that the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court:
- Issue a directive to the judges of the state court system to assign juvenile delinquency petitions, to the extent practicable, to a single courtroom within each judicial district and to allow judges with juvenile dockets to remain in that rotation so they may develop expertise in handling juvenile cases;
- Convene a task force within the judicial branch to advance the management of juvenile delinquency cases by using certain best practices and providing educational opportunities for judicial officers; and
- Establish a committee to review the Colorado Rules of Juvenile Procedure and juvenile court forms and make recommendations concerning any amendments that may be necessary.
The 2013 interim saw the Transportation Legislation Review Committee (TLRC) hit the road for a series of meetings around the state as it sought to carry out its statutory charge to “give guidance and direction” to state agencies in the development of Colorado’s transportation system. The TLRC has responsibility for legislation concerning the financing of the transportation system; for reviewing the operations of the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), the Regional Transportation District (RTD), and other similar entities; and for reviewing highway projects. The TLRC held its first public meeting in the familiar confines of the state capitol in July. The committee began with presentations from the aviation industry, including an update from Kim Day, the Manager of Aviation for the City and County of Denver. Ms. Day noted that work continues on the new terminal hotel and light rail connection at DIA, which is slated for completion in 2015. Also testifying were representatives from CDOT and the Fort Collins-Loveland Airport.
The committee heard further reports regarding waste tires, the activities of the Public Utilities Commission, and motor carriers.
Northeastern Colorado Field Hearing
The TLRC began its interim travel schedule with a visit to Fort Morgan where the committee heard how two-lane highways in rural areas in northeastern Colorado are affected by heavy truck use The committee reconvened the hearing later in the day in Greeley. Transportation issues facing northern Colorado were the primary topic of testimony from local leaders and members of the public. There was discussion of the project involving the intersection of US Highways 34 and 85, known locally as “spaghetti junction.”
The next day saw the TLRC take up business in Fort Collins. Discussion items included the FLEX bus service between Fort Collins and Longmont, the bus rapid transit MAX system, and the use of funds for capital projects versus ongoing maintenance.
Southern Colorado Field Hearing
In August, the committee traveled south for hearings in La Junta, Pueblo, and Colorado Springs. In La Junta, much of the testimony focused on highway issues, especially issues regarding U.S. Highways 50 and 350. The next morning in Pueblo the Committee heard more testimony about highways, this time with much concentration on the deteriorating condition of Interstate 25 through Pueblo County, as well as some discussion of using Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships (RAMP) funds for some of these projects.
Much of the discussion at the afternoon hearing in Colorado Springs concerned how transportation was affected by the wildfires of 2012.
Western Colorado Field Hearing
In September, the TLRC headed west for its last round of field hearings. The first stop was Kremmling, where the committee heard about safety issues regarding Colorado Highway 9. Later that day, they reconvened in Steamboat Springs, where they heard the astonishing statistic that some 40 percent of the homes there are second homes, not primary residences, and thus are not counted in census calculations.
Grand Junction was the next stop and there was much talk about how the local transportation infrastructure is challenged to help the critical industries of the area—agriculture, natural gas development, and tourism. Discussion at the final stop in Glenwood Springs focused on the upcoming project to replace the Grand Avenue Bridge that spans both the Colorado River and Interstate 70. One official testified that the project may require that the bridge be closed for two months.
Back at the capitol, the TLRC met for two days in early October for further reports. On the first day, representatives from the CDOT and the Denver Regional Council of Governments discussed how they collaborate on transportation projects. Members of the Colorado Association of Transit Agencies made presentations about local transit initiatives. The committee also heard from the toll road highway agencies, the state patrol, and disability parking advocates.
The second day of capitol hearings began with an update from CDOT regarding the damage caused to transportation infrastructure by the recent flooding. Next up was Action 22, a group that works to identify extra money and funding that can be used by localities for pressing transportation needs. RTD followed with a look at the latest about FasTracks and other RTD projects. The day was complete following presentations from the High-Performance Transportation Enterprise, the Colorado Contractors Association, and Truckers for Common Sense.
The TLRC reconvened at the capitol at the end of October for an update from Michael Dixon, representing the Department of Revenue. Mr. Dixon presented on the Department of Motor Vehicles’ strategic plan to provide better services through improved organization, business processes, facilities, and IT systems. The Committee spent the rest of the meeting discussing which of the proposed bills to send to the Legislative Council for approval. The Committee approved five bills that:
- Clarify the definition of a plug-in electric motor vehicle;
- Increase the fine for commercial oversize and overweight vehicles that violate certain highway restrictions;
- Allow the Public Utilities Commission to regulate rates for certain nonconsensual towing of vehicles that are over 10,000 pounds and create a committee to advise the PUC on towing rates and overcharges;
- Authorize annual fleet permits for bi- and tri-axle overweight vehicles and exempt sludge vehicles from certain weight restrictions; and
- Recodify the disabled parking statute.
Mentally Ill Offenders
The Legislative Oversight Committee for the Continuing Examination of the Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness Who Are Involved in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems brought forth two bills this interim. The first bill creates a definition of “incompetent to proceed” for juveniles that is distinct from the definition used for adults in the criminal justice system. The new definition includes updated definitions from the DSM-5 of “developmental disability,” “intellectual disability,” “mental capacity,” and “mental disability.”
The second bill changes the name of the committee (and associated task force) to “The Legislative Oversight Committee Concerning the Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems.” It also adds a representative to the task force from the Office of the Child’s Representative and one from the Office of the Alternate Defense Counsel. The repeal date of the committee and task force is extended until 2020, and additional issues for study are added for the subsequent years.
In the last session, the General Assembly recreated the Early Childhood and School Readiness Legislative Commission to study early childhood and school readiness issues, including issues relating to health care, mental health, parental involvement, family support, child care, and early learning. The Commission met several times during the interim and is recommending a slate of four bills designed to improve the quality of the early childhood education programs in Colorado.
Bill 1: The Early Childhood Educator Development Scholarship Program
The General Assembly originally enacted the early childhood educator development scholarship program in 2010. The program provides stipends to persons who are employed in early childhood education to help them meet the costs of obtaining an associate degree in early childhood education. The program is funded solely by gifts, grants, and donations, including federal moneys.
This bill expands the program to allow stipends for any type of postsecondary degree or certificate in early childhood education or a related field. The bill also expands the criteria for awarding the stipends to include consideration of the diversity of applicants and to allow the State Board of Education to choose to award stipends only to applicants who serve high-needs children. Finally, the bill authorizes the General Assembly to appropriate general fund moneys or moneys from the state education fund to pay for the program.
Bill 2: The Early Childhood Quality Incentive Program
This bill creates the early childhood quality incentive program through which an eligible school district may apply to the Department of Education for a grant to cover the cost of getting a school-readiness quality rating for its preschool program. Based on the quality rating that the district’s preschool program achieves, the district may also receive a quality improvement grant to use to improve the quality of the district’s preschool program.
A school district is eligible to participate in the program only if it has established a preschool program through the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) that meets CPP requirements and is licensed by the Department of Human Services. If the school district contracts out any portion of its preschool program to a head start or child care agency, the district must allow the head start or child care agency to participate in the program.
Each district that participates in the program must report certain information to the Department of Education after the second year in which the district receives the quality improvement grant. The Department must then include certain information about the program in its annual report to the General Assembly regarding the CPP.
Bill 3: The Child Care Assistance Authorization Period
This bill addresses an issue that arises for families that participate in the Colorado child care assistance program. Under current law, a family’s eligibility for child care assistance must be determined no more often than once a year if the child is enrolled in head start for all or a portion of his or her child care program. However, the duration of the authorization for the family to receive child care assistance may be shorter than 12 months.
This bill requires that the duration of a family’s eligibility for the child care assistance program and authorization to receive funding through the program be the same length of time, except under specified circumstances that the State Board of Human Services may establish by rule. If implementing this requirement would cause a county to exceed its allocation of funding for the child care assistance program in any fiscal year, the county may choose to serve fewer families through the child care assistance program.
Bill 4: Linking Student Data from Preschool to Kindergarten
This bill requires the Department of Education and the Department of Human Services to implement procedures by which the student data that a publicly funded early childhood education program collects may be linked with the student data that a school district or a public school collects. Linking the data will allow the Department of Education and the Department of Human Services to analyze the quality of the early childhood programs that receive public funding, to analyze the return to the state on its investment in early childhood education, and to measure the effects of early childhood education on students’ subsequent academic growth from kindergarten through high school graduation. The Early Childhood and School Readiness Legislative Commission must meet annually with representatives from both departments to receive an update on their progress in linking this student data and on the departments’ use of the data to analyze early childhood education programs.